You have heard it before: the yogi who tells you that meditation can never be done incorrectly. As long as you intend to meditate, you have already “succeeded” (at a practice which in fact, cannot be delineated by success or failure). In the ultimate scheme of things, there is no such thing as failure in meditation. But then again, there is also no such thing as failing in life, from a birds-eye view.
Meditation is the simplest skill you will ever learn, but its simplicity does not make it any less difficult, or safeguard it from the perils of failure. What you will quickly find is that meditation is so deceptively simple that it its very simplicity makes it difficult.
So, the last thing we want is to invest time and emotional effort into meditation, only to ruin our efforts by making simple mistakes.
Here are the most common meditation mistakes that will ruin your practice.
1. Not Committing to the Meditation Session 100%
Chances are, you are not meditating in an ashram for 10 hours per day. The most likely situation is that you have set aside 10-20 minutes to meditate, which already sets you apart from the vast majority of society. You’ve already recognized how important meditation is for your personal growth, your mental health, your relationships and even your physical wellbeing. So, setting aside the time is not your issue.
The tricky mistake is that when you sit to meditate, you actually aren’t meditating at all. Many times, we make the mistake of simply closing our eyes and daydreaming, or getting lost in thought. The essence of the meditative practice is to bring our awareness back to the “object” of meditation, depending on the type of meditation you’re doing (i.e., the breath, a mantra, a sensation, etc.). So, when we are lax about our practice and do not set a firm intention to use all our mental resources to meditate during those 10-20 minutes, a couple of tragic things can happen.
First, you aren’t meditating, so you’re not getting any benefits of meditation or strengthening your practice. You may relax by simply sitting and letting your mind wander—but without a clear intent, you’re not truly meditating. So all the wonderful results you are hoping to reap from your practice will slowly slip farther away from you.
The second tragedy that will happen when you fail to give it 100% is that a sloppy practice will become habitual. Before you know it, one lazy meditation session will end up in a week of lazy meditation sessions, which will culminate into months and even years before you realize you’ve wasted enormous amounts of time.
All that to say, when you sit to meditate, make sure you are entirely, unequivocally clear about what you’re doing. Be crystal clear regarding the type of meditation you have chosen for that session, and stick to it. When your mind wanders, firmly but gently bring it back. Don’t deceive yourself into thinking you are meditating just because you say you are.
2. Isolating Formal Meditation Practice From The Rest of Your Life
Ultimately, we want the lessons and skills we glean from meditation to inform the rest of our lives. We want the enlightened, peaceful, wise part of ourselves that we tap into during meditation to emerge during our most trying situations. Unless meditation is just your random hobby (to which I have no moral objection), you want the awareness you develop to underpin everything else.
This is where many meditators go wrong: they think that just because they sat for 10 minutes of mindfulness, they can go about their day in a totally frenetic state, reacting unconsciously to everything and everyone. Of course, this is not their intention, but it is a natural outcome of not bringing a meditative presence to each and every moment.
In the early stages of meditation, it may be difficult to remember to be mindful throughout the day. One easy way to augment the time you spend inhabiting a mindful presence is to decide upon certain activities in which you will engage mindfully. For example, you could decide that whenever you walk from one place to another, you will be mindful; or when you wash the dishes, you will be entirely focussed on the dishes, not letting your mind distract you from the task at hand.
3. Talking About Meditation More Than You Actually Do It
One of the most satisfying experiences for your ego is to espouse the benefits of meditation to other people. We naturally love to talk about the wonderful things we do in life; it makes us feel good, and it makes others think we are pretty good people.
But when it comes to meditation, people should be coming to you, asking what makes you so calm, so present, so collected? Then you have earned a minute of airtime to talk about your habit. Of course, I’m kidding, and you should definitely tell as many people as you can about how meditation has impacted your life. The mistake is that it is far too easy to get lost in talking about meditation—even talking to yourself about meditation during your meditation!—that it is better to focus on the practice itself, and try to keep talking about it to a minimum.
What meditation mistakes do you see people making?
Have you made any of these mistakes yourself?
Let us know in the comments below!